If you’re in a lunch rut or if you just want to find a new place, we’ve got eight international dining choices in uptown Charlotte for you to try. There are plenty more places that don’t serve typical American cuisine, but this will get you started.
Ios Greek Kitchen
Try the Mediterranean nachos ($9.50) – fried pita topped with tomatoes, cucumber, pepperoncini, pickled onions, harissa queso, feta and gyros or chicken. Entrees and samplers are $10-$15 and the Greek salad is $9.50; adding a protein is $4 or $5. Sandwiches include gyros, falafel and lamb and are $9.50, with a side. The $12 meat sampler is loaded with grilled, marinated dark-meat chicken, a ground lamb skewer, fries, salad, pita and two sauces: tzatziki and harissa (hot chili paste) aioli.
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EpiCentre, 210 E. Trade St., www.ioskitchen.com.
Persis Biryani Indian Grill
Chicken biryani is $8.99; lunch entrees range from $5.99 for one entree, rice and naan to $10.49 for three entrees. My chicken tikka masala had mostly tender chicken, and the chicken saag felt somewhat healthier since it was in a spinach sauce. The meal generated some heat – sweat and sniffles, though it was not overpowering and didn’t sting my tongue. Note: This place is carry-out only.
Latta Arcade, 320 S. Tryon St., www.persischarlotte.com.
Aria Tuscan Grill
Busy, noisy, upscale restaurant frequented by power-lunching execs and featuring a variety of lunch options, including pizza, salad and panini lunch specials. But the highlight is the express lunch: three courses for $8.99. Recently, I went with a Caesar salad, orecchiette (with sausage, toasted garlic and broccoli rabe and chiles) and cheesecake with strawberry sauce. Other express options are a field green salad, and – for the entree – fettucine carbonara, spaghetti and meatballs or penne al a vodka.
Founders Hall, 100 N. Tryon St., www.ariacharlotte.com.
This takeout place in Latta Arcade has the best lunch deal uptown, even though it raised prices – to $6! You get a chicken or beef teriyaki (or a combination of the two), brown or white rice, and a salad of iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots and red cabbage with an overly sweet vinegary dressing. I usually get a combo to vary the textures. Bite-sized pieces of mostly white-meat chicken and slivers of beef, mushrooms and onions. It’s probably the only place uptown where you can get bibimbap.
Latta Arcade, 320 S. Tryon St., 704-334-5158.
Vida Mexican Kitchen y Cantina
Popular place: The hostess complimented us for being smart and making a reservation. This place is noisy, though our booth next to the Trade Street window helped muffle the sound. The “Pick 2” ($9.99) is a reasonable price for lunch uptown and provides a hefty amount of food. You can choose from two salads, chicken quesadillas, red chile chicken taco, carnitas taco, ground beef taco, chicken and roasted corn enchilada and spinach and mushroom enchilada. Tacos, salads, enchiladas and burritos are all available for under $10; the most expensive lunch is the $15.99 blackened ahi salad.
EpiCentre, 210 E. Trade St., charlotte.vidacantina.com.
Basil Thai Cuisine
It’s a popular place at lunch with excellent pad thai ($12.95), so plan ahead. I often get its namesake Basil stir-fry entree, with chicken, basil, bell peppers, onions, garlic in a Thai chili sauce for $12.95. They offer typical noodle, rice and curry dishes, along with interesting salads.
210 N. Church St., www.eatatbasil.com/charlotte.
Metropolitan Cafe & Catering
I’ve been methodically running through the Metropolitan’s menu, starting at the top with the doner kabob – a cousin to gyros of sliced beef and lamb over rice with two sides – and moving south. You can get the entrees ($7.99-$9.25) plain or topped with tomato sauce and cacik (yogurt with cucumber). I found the kofte shish kebab surprisingly spicy, so the rice and sauce tempered it. Metropolitan’s sides seem to be different each visit, providing ample opportunities to experiment. The hot spicy beans in tomato sauce and the cold Russian salad, made of cubed potatoes, carrots and peas in a light mayonnaise dressing were a good pair.
138 Brevard Court, 704-333-5175.
The menu features solid pho and vermicelli bowls ($8.25-$13.99). My pick is the grilled chicken banh mi ($4.99), a baguette loaded with cilantro, carrot, jalapeno and cucumber. Its chicken is exceptional, and each bite of the sandwich was more satisfying than the last.
128 Brevard Court, www.phoplus.org.